I’ve recently been on two short courses to help prepare me for volunteering, and I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time. One of the subjects we talked about two weeks ago was what qualities were desirable in a volunteer. These included amongst other things flexibility and adaptability, and I hope I can show both. One example of the need for flexibility occurred last Friday afternoon. I was in Birmingham on a VSO training course, secure in the knowledge that my placement had 36 hours previously been given the stamp of approval by the Gambian Ministry of Agriculture and that in just over three weeks time, on February 6th, I would be boarding a flight at Heathrow bound first for Brussels, and then on to the Gambia.

Only now, I’m not. Last Friday, Joe, another volunteer who is also going to the Gambia to work in a hospital in Banjul, received a phone call informing him that his Gambia departure had been put back a month. Shortly afterwards I received the same information, as did Helen, who is also heading out there as a fund raiser. No reason has been given, but we now expect that along with two other volunteers whom I’ve not yet met, we’ll be leaving on 6th March instead. From my own point of view it’s only a mild annoyance as I’ve not yet signed up a tenant for my house, but for others it might have been a problem. Two weeks ago I met a volunteer who had already let her flat and is now living out of a suitcase, and sofa surfing with friends as her departure has been delayed until April. I can’t imagine what that must be like but I may find I need to be more flexible yet.